Over the summer, I was talking with my right-wing, Fox-News-watching father-in-law about the NFL, and he starts going on about how the ratings are falling, which kind of pisses me off because it’s almost like he’s bragging, like he’s taking credit for it, and I’ve never felt more compelled to watch the NFL than I did then, just to spite him.
And then I say, “Yeah, I’m not watching anymore, either” and he looks at me with a sort of wide-eyed look, and he says, “Why?” And I say, “Because of Kaepernick,” and he says, “Yes! Exactly!” but then it takes him a few seconds before it dawns on him that I am on the other side of the exact same issue, and his face kind of falls. “Oh.”
Of course, he knew there was another side, but I don’t think it had occurred to him until that moment that some on the other side were also boycotting the NFL, and I could sort of see him working it out in his head that maybe the fallings ratings weren’t exclusively because of the right, and I suspect he had a moment, too, where he felt like, “Screw it. I’m gonna watch the NFL to own the libs.”
And then he went on to talk about how fair the new policy was — players being able to stay in the locker room during “The National Anthem,” and how it was a “compromise” — and then I walked away before I said something that would make the rest of my in-laws’ visit unbearable.
So, here’s the thing: The NFL returned this weekend, there were only a smattering of protests (six players in all, I believe), folks (and the media) are mostly tuning out Trump’s anti-NFL tweets, and the ratings over the weekend were … just fine. Ratings for Thursday night’s weather-delayed game (a snoozer) were down, and so were ratings for Sunday night’s matchup between the Packers and the Bears (a snoozer until that historic fourth quarter), while ratings for the Sunday afternoon games were actually up over last year.
In other words, it’s a wash. Nothing has really changed that much. While the ratings are down a little, the ratings are still dominating everything else on television, and much of the small yearly erosion can be attributed to more competition, or to The Red Zone channel, or to Netflix.
And, of course, I feel conflicted in so many ways. Because I love watching football, and because the decision of so many of us not to watch isn’t making a dent, because protesting cops killing black people is last year’s issue now, because both viewers and the players are moving on, and the fight has apparently moved to Nike headquarters. On the other hand, the conservative protests aren’t making much of a dent, either, so my father-in-law has nothing to brag about, and now people are probably watching the NFL to own the other side.
The NFL is going to be just fine. Roger Goodell is going to keep his job. They probably feel as though they have weathered this storm, and they will not feel compelled to make any changes or honor the wishes of so many of the players, but the players have also mostly given up the ghost, decided not to risk their too-short careers over a protest that only gets them vilified, all of which illustrates yet another example of where doing the right thing basically gets you nowhere, because the entrenched forces are just too big to compete with.
Ratings via The Observer
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